Finland shuts out Russian tourists

STORY: From midnight on Thursday (29 September), Finland's borders will be closed to Russian tourists, the country's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto has announced.

"The aim of the resolution is to halt Russian tourism into Finland and transit through Finland to other Schengen countries. In the resolution the government notes that the entry of Russian citizens in tourist purposes into Finland endangers Finland's international relations."

The closure shuts off the last remaining direct land route to the European Union for thousands of Russians seeking to avoid conscription into the war in Ukraine.

The Finnish government said the move will lead to a significant drop in cross-border traffic.

That after almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland during the weekend - an almost 80% rise on the number the week prior.

With the decision, Finland joined the other EU member countries sharing land borders with Russia which had already barred Russian tourists.

Its government had been wary of being a transit nation into western Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.

Ahead of the decision, Finns remained divided on barring Russians from entering on tourist visas.

"Of course there's risks but still they are normal people who don't want to go to war or that are against it."

On Thursday, there was a steady stream of cars coming through at the Vaalimaa border crossing, according to a Reuters witness, although traffic had calmed somewhat after the weekend.

While the number of arrivals from Russia remains below pre-pandemic levels, some Finns have expressed worries over the recent rise.

"I think it's very unfortunate that we're in a situation that Russia has caused, but in this situation I don't feel it okay that they are coming through Finland for tourism."

Last week's announcement was Russia's first public mobilization since World War Two, aimed at shoring up its faltering Ukraine war.

The move triggered a rush for the border, the arrest of protesters, and unease in the wider population.